At last week's Web 2.0 Summit, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told attendees that the social networking site didn't really view itself as a "media company", underlining one of the key differences between its strategy and that of rival MySpace. While third-party developers are free to write media-specific apps for Facebook's Platform, media content wasn't a priority area for the company.
In contrast, News Corp.-owned MySpace will launch its latest MySpaceTV exclusive web video series -- Roommates -- co-created by MySpace and new-media production studio Iron Sink Productions. Roommates is the first time that the social-networking site has been behind the development of a scripted web show, in terms of being directly responsible at the content level, rather than just being a exclusive distributor or partner.
From the press release:
MySpace’s co-development role in Roommates allows MySpaceTV to retain creative control over all aspects of the show’s development including casting, story development, location scouting, and wardrobe—allowing the company to create the series exclusively with the MySpace audience in mind.
Similar to Quaterlife, another MySpace exclusive web series, Roommates is taking a familiar post-modernist approach whereby a fictional set of characters will be video-blogging their "lives".
Roommates is a show within a show, as four recent college graduates move to Los Angeles and enlist in an uber-surveillant reality show while four of their other friends observe from their "real lives." They are, naturally, all good-looking females with penchants for strappy tank tops.
NewTeeVee picks up on the show's focus on "good-looking females", noting that MySpace seems to be targeting the lucrative demographic of adolescent males, "the first episode features one of the girls standing in her underwear scolding her dog". To that end, Roommates is heavily sponsored by Ford.
Tapping into its social networking base, Roommates is designed to be an interactive experience whereby MySpace users will be invited to participate in the creative process. "They'll be able to help shape story arcs," says Jeff Berman, general manager of the MySpaceTV division. "We're going to see some of the best creative ideas for the show come from our users."
While it's tempting to frame events in the social networking space as a battle between rising star Facebook and the number one incumbent MySpace, it may be possible that both sites can happily co-exist at the top of their game for years to come, if enough users can be persuaded to remain members of both sites. Original professionally-produced content, in combination with its pop culture roots is one way for MySpace to achieve this.